Congress is weakening, 'G-23' has come together to strengthen it: Dissenters at Jammu meet

JAMMU:  Congress activists on Tuesday set ablaze an effigy of senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad here and accused him of conspiring against the party at the behest of the BJP to weaken it for “personal gains”.

The Congress activists, mostly the youth, demanded his ouster from the party.

The first-of-its-kind protest against the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister came days after a rally addressed by some ‘G-23’ leaders ostensibly to felicitate Azad on his retirement from the Rajya Sabha.

It was seen as a show of strength to convey a message to the party leadership.

The group of 23 leaders wrote to the interim president Sonia Gandhi in August last year urging her to ensure “full time” and “visible” leadership.

It has since come to be known as ‘G-23’.

Led by senior leader and District Development Council (DDC) member and former general secretary of J-K Congress Mohammad Shahnawaz Choudhary, Congress activists appeared outside the Press Club here in the afternoon and set ablaze the effigy of Azad amid high-pitch sloganeering against him and in support of party president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi.

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“Congress has always put him (Azad) on the top and when the party needed his experience at the time of crisis, he came to Jammu and Kashmir and praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi who deprived us of statehood. It is clear that he is working at the behest of the BJP to weaken the party for his personal gains,” Choudhary, a former J-K Pradesh Youth Congress president, told reporters.

Choudhary, who won the DDC election from Surankot-A constituency of Poonch as an independent, accused Azad of conspiracy against the Congress leadership and demanded his expulsion from the party.

Amid sloganeering in support of Rahul Gandhi and stern action against Azad from the party, Choudhary said they have come on the roads to give vent to their anger.

“It is the Congress which groomed him (Azad) over the decades, sends him to Rajya Sabha repeatedly and made him chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“When the Congress is in crisis and he should have used his experience to strengthen the party, he comes to J-K with a select group of G-23 leaders and showers praises on Prime Minister Modi to weaken the party for his personal interests,” the Congress leader said.

On Sunday, Azad at a function here praised Modi, saying he speaks frankly about his past as a tea-seller and does not try to hide his background from the world.

“I admire several things about a number of leaders. I am from a village and I am proud of it. A big leader, our prime minister, says he is from a village, he used to sell tea. We may have political differences, but at least he doesn’t hide his reality,” he had said.

Continuing his tirade against Azad, Choudhary said he stayed away from the DDC election campaigning and invited a select group of G-23 leaders to a function organised by the Gandhi Global Family which he is heading himself.

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“Congress activist is not a fool. He enjoyed when Congress was in power and when the time had come for him to pay back to the party, he is conspiring against it,” he said.

Choudhary said Sonia and Rahul are the “real leaders” of every party activist and they are conspiring against them.

“We are foot soldiers of the party and anyone conspiring against the party leadership will have to face our anger,” he said.

“Congress gave him (Azad) everything – by making him union minister several times chief minister of J-K, leader of opposition, but when stepped down from power, he instead of strengthening party during present state is weakening it,” Chaudhary said.

“We urge the Congress high command to oust Azad from the party for his anti-party activities”, he said.

Meanwhile, Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has hit out at his colleague Anand Sharma over his criticism of its tie-up with the Indian Secular Front, accusing him of “undermining” the party’s interest by making remarks “in tune with the BJP’s agenda”.

Sharma had on Monday slammed Congress’ association with the ISF led by Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui in West Bengal, contending that it was against the “Gandhian and Nehruvian secularism” and the party cannot be selective in fighting “communalists”.

In a series of tweets, an infuriated Chowdhury did not mince words in flaying Sharma, a former union minister and a leader of the group of 23 which had written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi demanding organisational overhaul.

“Know ur facts@AnandSharmaINC ji. CPI(M)-led Left Front is leading the secular alliance in West Bengal, of which Congress is an integral part. We are determined to defeat BJP’s communal & divisive politics and an autocratic regime,” he tweeted late on Monday night.

“@INCIndia has got its full share of seats. Left Front is allocating seats from its share to the newly-formed Indian Secular Front-ISF. Ur choice to call the decision of CPM-led front ‘communal’ is only serving the polarising agenda of BJP,” Chowdhury said.

Sharma had also sought clarification from Chowdhury for attending the joint rally in Kolkata where ISF leaders were present, alleging that his presence and endorsement was “painful and shameful”.

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The West Bengal Congress chief, in reply said: “Those who are committed to fighting against #BJP parties venomous communalism should support the Congress & campaign for the party in five states rather than attempting to undermine the party by remarks in tune with BJP’s agenda.”

“Would urge a select group of distinguished Congressmen to rise above always seeking personal comfort spots & stop wasting time singing praises of PM. They owe a duty to strengthen the Party & not undermine the tree that nurtured them,” Chowdhury added.

The Congress-Left Front-ISF has forged a ‘Sayunkta Morcha’ (united front) to take on the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP in the assembly elections, the first phase of which will begin on March 27.